Not Just Steak at Sullivan’s Steakhouse
I know food snobs who only dine in artisanal, local restaurants, avoiding the commercialized homogeneity of Chili’s and Starbucks. But as far as my conscience gives a shit (which is very little), a tasty meal with great service supersedes any internal moral distress. So last week, in an expected episode of carnivorous frenzy, I embarked on a steakhouse feast at Sullivan’s Steakhouse in Downtown Chicago.
Sullivan’s Steakhouse is part of Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group, a Texas-based company with 35 high-end restaurants across 19 states. The Chicago restaurant recently underwent several innovations that opened up the space, including a partially-exposed kitchen that overlooks the dining area.
Their menu contains the traditional assortment of cow and fish filets, accompanied by a surprisingly extensive beverage collection. For appetizers, I ordered the seafood sampler (including cracked lobster claws and oysters), beef ravioli, kale salad, three-cheese mac, and white cheddar au gratin potatoes. Since my appetizers clearly didn’t comprise a full-blown meal, I ordered a bone-in KC Strip with bourbon peppercorn sauce and pan-seared Sea Bass with bok choy for my main entrées. And finally for dessert, a key lime pie. Although the kale wasn’t topped with freshly-grated pecorino and my gigantic oysters weren’t harvested from the pristine shores of Olympia, I found them utterly delicious. The godly mac n cheese was consumed in less than three minutes, and my sea bass was seared perfectly, flaking gently apart into a puddle of honeyed soy sauce. The thick bloody steak paired marvelously with the savory bourbon peppercorn sauce, and my diner friend (a born and bred Floridian) swore the key lime pie tasted just like home.
My overall experience reminded me that generic simplicity is sorely underrated, even if it’s coated with sesame seeds and seared medium rare. I refuse to feel guilty about eating tourist-level food, supporting the destruction of local cuisine, or fueling my inevitable spiral into diabetes. Because frankly, why repent if I ate great food in a pleasant environment? My idea of a nice dinner isn’t contingent upon fifty silverware replacements, eating a 10-ingredient amuse-bouche, and waiting a half hour between courses.
But it’s not just the food–with so many local competitors, service and hospitality makes a tremendous difference. Keith Sansone, general manager at Sullivan’s, is a genial man with a soft spot for Chicago pizza pot pies. He makes his rounds through the dining area, chatting with guests and ensuring service runs smoothly. Sous chef Julio, a native of Puerto Rico, even gave me a signed chef hat upon my joke of a request. I also appreciated my server Christian not hovering around me as I ungracefully tore apart lobster claws with my teeth.
Perhaps Keith and his staff were kissing my ass, but I doubt that’s (entirely) the case. One cannot easily feign the level of comfort and fluidity I sensed among the staff, something rare in most high-restaurants. I’m not endorsing any type of dining philosophy, but if you’re ever in Downtown and craving a good ol’ steak, Sullivan’s won’t disappoint.
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For original review on Gapers Block, click here.